The 1940s ranch house was small, dark and dated. Perched on a bluff running along Lake Austin’s southern shore and just a stone’s throw from downtown Austin, its location was sublime. Fred and Jodi Zipp bought the view.
When the Zipps’ architect, Dick Clark, visited the site and climbed to the home’s rooftop, he discovered completely untapped skyline vistas. “We just needed to go up another level,” Clark says. The small house came down to make way for a 5,000-square-foot two-story concrete and stucco home for the Zipps and their three children. And because it’s in Austin, home of the nation’s first green building program and a hot spot for environmentally friendly building, the house has serious green credentials.
Saving energy and money on utility bills was the Zipps’ main priority. “These guys didn’t care that much about a plaque on the wall,” Clark says. “They just wanted efficiency.” And he gave it to them.
A 3-kilowatt solar array on the flat roof provides enough power for the house plus a little extra to feed back into Austin’s energy grid. With incentives and tax rebates, the Zipps were able to install their solar system for about a third of the retail cost, and they paid back that investment in decreased energy bills within five years.
With vast expanses of two-story glass capturing city views, the Zipps’ home could easily have been an energy disaster. To prevent the home from overheating, Clark included wide overhangs to shield the most intense summer sun and low-e glass that blocks rays. In spring and fall, the home’s natural ventilation system makes the most of fresh, cool breezes from the river below. Miele efficient appliances and an on-demand water heater also help keep energy use low.
Along with the solar panels, the home’s flat roof holds a rainwater collection system that gathers and stores enough water for landscaping. “Water collection is so easy—it’s a no brainer,” Clark says, “especially when you have a flat roof.”
Clark’s minimalist design, with simple massing and materials, reflects the Zipps’ lifestyle while providing ample space for entertaining and socializing. A glass-enclosed living area and large sliding doors connect the living area to a deck and negative-edge pool in front, where the skyline views are sublime.
“One of the cool things about this house is that the pool is in the front,” Clark says. “The entire dining room can open onto the pool deck, so you can easily have a dinner party for 40 people. The Zipps liked to wave to friends as they were coming home and have a glass of wine on the deck while the kids played in the pool. ”
The open floor plan allows for visual connections between the living room, dining room and kitchen on the main floor, and a floating bookcase separates the public entry hall from a bedroom wing. A vent-free Ecosmart Fireplace anchors the room without touching the ceiling, adding to the sense of spaciousness.
The top floor houses the office and master bedroom suite, which opens up to the two-story living space below and can be closed off for privacy with pocket doors. “The best views in the house are up there,” Clark says. And that’s saying something.